Shaken and Stirred on the way to Sicily

From my last post you will know that we were on the last leg of our journey back to Sicily. We had another early start; leaving the comfort of Rocella Ionica, Porto delle Grazie – Appropriately named the Port of Thanks – and we were thankful for having been there, if only briefly.

Overnight oats – a good start to the day.

We were keen to complete the 60 odd miles to Sicily so that Ian could watch the rugby. He had to spend all 12 and a half hours of the crossing avoiding any possible inadvertent news about the results, especially as we had a fairly decent signal the whole way.

We spotted many pods of dolphins en route which helped alleviate the boredom somewhat. We were treated to acrobatic displays and a mother and tiny baby came to play on the bow. I was in full dolphin speaking mode. Squeaking and whistling in what I hoped they would interpret as appreciative comments and encouragement about their beauty, ability, speed and agility.

In the end, although we motored for a few hours. The wind picked up from the south. Predicted to be 7kn turned out to be 15kn gusting 20+kn – I told you that is what happens to wind forecasts. Always add more.

Consequently, the waves in turn began to pick up and were meeting tidal currents heading south down the Messina Straits so there was some confusion where they met. The sea was lumpy and we were rolling up one side of a wave, parallel with it, and sliding down the other side. Quite an interesting motion.

Anyway, we were at least sailing and saving on fuel.

The speed we were making through the water was good and it meant that we would arrive in Taormina in day light.

We approached the breakwater to the south of the bay, a place called Giardini Naxos. We began to prepare to go in under engine as normal in order to anchor off.

Ian was looking forward to watching the rugby, I was looking forward to a glass of wine and we were both looking forward to a good sleep after several long days with pre-dawn starts.

We furled the head sail. Put on the engine and readied ourselves to drop the main sail.

Suddenly, I detected a slight change in the note emitted by the engine. Normally a reassuring A Flat this time it had dropped a semi-tone, and then, again. I looked around quizzically at Ian to see if he was responsible for this change. But no, he had not adjusted the throttle.

In the next few seconds, the sound of the engine slowly dying came to both of our ears. I sank to the cockpit seats with my head in my hands! Melt down inbound!!

Ian started barking orders.

We put the head sail out again but only partially. We put the main sail down. The wind backed the genoa and pushed us round in a complete circle. I winched in the sail nice and tight. It began to propel us towards that anchorage.

I went up to the foredeck to prepare that anchor. I untied it and lowered it to the sea level.

I then went back in the cockpit in case we needed to tack to better position ourselves.

We continued straight into the bay. We knew that as soon as we went around the breakwater there would be a lot less wind. We could see five or six other yachts in prime positions tucked in round the breakwater. We didn’t have much choice. We kept going as far in a possible until we had no further forward momentum. Ian furled the head sail in again. At that point I dropped the anchor slowly so that the wind could push us back and I could lay the chain as straight as possible. Although the depth was only 9 metres, we weren’t sure about holding here and would not be able to test by reversing, so we lay 50m of chain for added security.

At this stage, dear readers, you may be forgiven for thinking that we are on some masochistic path but I promise you….if I could stop this happening, and, we could afford it, I would, I so totally would.

And, I can honestly state that I have no interest in one-up-man-ship, either. ‘What? You have only moored under sail once?….Pah! We’ve done it four times!!’

No, I want a boat that works consistently, every time and presents me with no trauma.

On the other hand, now that I have done it three times, either I care a lot less about what happens to the boat (Hmmmm! Let me consider that possibility!) or, simply because we’ve done it so often, I have more confidence that we can do it! It doesn’t help me be any less terrified though.

Immediately, we knew what had caused the failure of the engine…because of all we learnt in Naxos 2017. It was down to debris from the bottom of the diesel tank having been shaken and stirred whilst we crossed the bumpy, lumpy waves.

Ian’s first check was the filters. And, yes, indeed, they were full of gunk.

He changed both primary and secondary filters and we tested the engine…

No joy. Following advice given to a fellow MDR boat, Quench, we used a bicycle pump to successfully push a blockage down the pipe and back to the tank. Ready to case havoc on another day?!

Happily, the engine started after this and we felt so relieved.

(We know will have to get our fuel ‘Polished’ very soon, which involves pumping the fuel out, filtering it properly and cleaning the tank before putting it back in.)

We did all this in the most rolly anchorage we have ever been in. We were both a bit green around the gills and covered in diesel after our efforts.

We brought ourselves round with a quick shower and delicious lemon chicken, peas and carrots, oh, and some wine and chocolate. And finally Ian managed to watch the rugby.

We had a calm, if slightly rolly night and the next day George Rizzo from the buoy field to the north came to see us. We explained our predicament and he offered to collect some fuel for us. He told us that the north buoy field was still too uncomfortable in a southerly wind and that we would be better where we were. The wind was due to change mid afternoon the following day so we planned to move then.

In the meantime, we went ashore and did some shopping in preparation for the arrival of David Heane.

We went ashore to a bar to fetch him at about 2100h. Obviously, a beer or two had to be taken.

We arrived back at the boat and had a bit of supper with David before bed.

Apparently, the anchor alarm went off twice in the night but I heard nothing, so deep was my sleep.

Next morning, we prepared to move to the north but George advised us to stay put. Suddenly, the wind started to pipe up from the north rather earlier than expected. It was gusting at a regular 35kn. We started the engine, but nothing happened. What???? It had been fine yesterday.

Ian changed the filters again. They were still collecting more gunk.

He tried to start the engine again. But, no joy.

We phoned George who kindly offered to find us a mechanic, who would be with us at 1730h. We had then to sit out the ferociously gusting wind with no engine, worrying about whether we would drag anchor, as we watched various other boats dragging about to the south of us. Poor things. Luckily, we held tight.

Sebastiano the mechanic came and had the engine running again in a few minutes….air in the pipes. Like magic.

He came with us as we motored north to the buoy field. All was good.

We were soon tied up and I was feeling hugely relieved. And so it was time to go ashore for dinner.

Next day, we took a trip up to Taormina and Castelmola which was a fab day out on dry land.

Only a week to go until we get back to our winter berth and it can’t come soon enough!

Next time, read about our trip back through the Staits of Messina and on to Gaeta, Italy.

3 thoughts on “Shaken and Stirred on the way to Sicily”

  1. I’m still enjoying these .. and they’re going to be so much fun for you to read back in years to come.
    Hopefully see you soon
    C and A x

  2. Keeping me entertained Sarah as I watch the world cycling from my sofa in front of the fire! Enjoy the next few weeks xxx

  3. Fabulous bedtime reading, keep them coming. Traumatic end to the summer but luckily all sorted. Enjoy your last weeks and hopefully we will see you soon ?? xxxx

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